Know Your Documents

Know Your Documents



The document, Proclaim, was published by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on 29 June 2016. It is a follow-up of the Year of Consecrated life (YCL): 30 November 2014 – 2 February 2016.  It is a continuation of the previous three documents on Religious Life (Rejoice, Keep Watch and Contemplate) that emerged in the context of the YCL.

Title: Proclaim

Authorship: Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Audience: All Consecrated Men and Women

Year of Release: 29 June 2016, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Type of Document: Guidelines

Number of Articles: 93

Purpose of this document: Continuation of the Year of Consecrated Life taking cues from Rejoice, Keep Watch and Contemplate.

Major influence for this document: Pope Francis and his teachings: Evangelii Gaudium. More than 50 % of the references are from EG!

Structure of the Document: Prologue (World today) and Epilogue (Reflections from Francis). Three main parts: To the Ends of the Earth (Consecrated mission), Church which goes forth (Ecclesiology), Outside the Gates (New frontiers of Mission). The three parts begin with a listening to the past (scripture) and present (religious life today) and then goes to proposals and prospects.

Tagline: The Religious carry out the mission mandate of Jesus (Go and Proclaim) effectively in the context of today.

Key Points

  1. The World Today

This is a world of multiple complexities. It is time to ask ourselves: what does God want me to be and do in the world? It is the world where we lose our real identity and have multiple identities (e.g., social media). The activism of life today makes us forget the great Greek search, know thyself (5). There is the temptation of spiritual desertification and disenchantment of the world. (6)

  1. Tasks of Religious
  • New Evangelisation demands that we bring new ardour and method to the same Christian message of Good News (8,9).
  • Mk 16: 15. Go and proclaim… is the mission mandate followed by the first disciples and continued by the founders/foundresses. We share in this mission which embraces every act in the Church (10-13).
  • We are servants of the Word (Scripture and Tradition). We proclaim the Word in three ways: Proclaiming the Word of God (Kerygma, Martyria), Celebrating Sacraments (Leitourgia) and ministry of service (Diakonia). The language of proclamation (homily, catechesis, pastoral ministries) should be the mother’s language (Francis in EG) and catechesis is an important act in new evangelisation (19,20).
  • Collective Mission: The mission is not by individuals. It is a collective venture. First and foremost, it is a partnership with God (39).
  • Two missionary tasks of Religious: Review and renew old ministries to let good news in. Venture new missionary proposals with creativity and courage (47).
  • Raise questions to evaluate our mission today: Are our ministries and presence in resonance with the spirit of our foundresses/ founders? Are these works suitable to carry out today? Are we sharing the needs and addressing the needs of our people today?
  • Have a pedagogy of reliability: In assemblies and chapters Religious promise more than they can deliver. The decisions and choices should be translated into action (54,55).
  • Generation gap: Religious today need to listen to both old (past wisdom) and new generations (new directions, not to cling on to lifeless past) of Religious (69).
  • Mission towards Peripheries: The challenge of Religious is to get out of comfort zones to reach out to the peripheries (74).
  1. Identity of Religious
    • Alter Christus: Religious see as Jesus see, are merciful as Christ was merciful (15,16).
    • Mysterium Lunae: We are like the moon, reflecting the light from the sun (church as mysterium lunae). The missionary is a contemplative in action (18).
    • Joyful Religious: A Religious is one who brings good news (joy of the Gospel) to all. (Not like people coming from a funeral service EG).22
    • Experts in Communion: Religious live in fraternity in continuity with the early Christian community (Acts 2: 42; 4: 32-33). Religious becomes experts in communion (Francis in EG) (24,26, 28) The effectiveness of religious life depends on the quality of fraternal life in common (29).
    • Missionary Religious: All consecrated life in its many forms – virginal, monastic, apostolic, secular – is missionary (41).
  1. Religious Life Today
  • The Problem: As found in Paul’s time. Religious experience uncertainty and troubles on the way. These troubles at times make them feel helpless. Pluralistic communities initially welcomed with warmth, ended with conflicts and dissidence (33,34). Temptations to individualism in our work instead of shared responsibility are ever on the increase (46).
  1. Church
  • The Church’s mission is rich due to the charisms of the Religious Life (45).
  • The Church is like a polyhedron (multiple faces). She is unity in distinctiveness (48).
  1. Four Principles of EG to guide Religious Today (48-52)
  • Time is greater than space. Initiate the work rather than occupy the spaces of power. Space hardens the process whereas time propels us to the future with hope (Lumen Fidei 57).
  • Unity prevails over conflict. This is how we transform conflicts into communion.
  • Realities are more important than ideas. Ideas make us victims of sophistry, creating documents after documents (chapters), information-overdose and chats (social media), while reality leads to the logic of the Incarnation (word in deed!).
  • The whole is greater than the part. Expand our vision and mission to integrate the differences.

Some Quotations

  • “Communion (of religious) leads to mission and is itself mission (28).”
  • “Fraternal life is not the entirety of the mission of a religious community, but it is an essential element. Fraternal life is just as important as apostolic life (29).”
  • “Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away, Christ stays in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is simply an organisation, mission a matter of propaganda, the liturgy, no more than an evocation, Christian living, a slave morality (Orthodox Metropolitan Ignatius di Latakia in 1968).” 37
  • “Presently, it seems as though consecrated life has lowered the missionary anchor in ports that are tried, safe, private. This is how sailing is abandoned on Peter’s boat: although risky, and at times in the middle of the billows, it always has the security of Jesus Christ’s presence (Mk 4: 35-41) 53.”


  1. The document uses exclusive language! It seems the Curia is not affected by the Francis Effect found in Evangelii Gaudium that was inclusive in its language!
  2. The language is not as easy as of Francis. Lots of isms, foreign words and persons taken for granted.
  3. Art. 20. Says that catechesis is the first educational act of evangelisation. Perhaps, the primary proclamation (first announcement) is the first act of evangelisation.
  4. It was a rare sight to see an official document of the Curia with lots of references from individual authors apart from the Holy See or the popes.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Are our ministries and presence in consonance with the spirit of our foundresses/ founders?
  2. Are these works suitable for today?
  3. Are we sharing and addressing the needs of our people today?
  4. Who is Jesus for the people of our time?
  5. Is our faith fruitful? Does our faith produce good works?
  6. What does it mean for our communities and for each one of us to belong to the Church, which is Catholic and Apostolic?
  7. What does it mean to evangelise the poor?

Fr.Gilbert Choondal SDB

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Know Your Documents

New Wine in New Wineskins

Web 9

Why this new column? There are a number of new Church Documents addressing religious which we should be aware of. MAGNET is grateful to an experienced professor of Catechetics who has volunteered to present the theme and outline of these documents in a clear and systematic manner, so that individuals and communities can be up-to-date in this area. Thank you, Fr. Gilbert! – Editor.

New Wine in New Wineskins

At the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life (November 30, 2014-February 2, 2016), the Plenary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life met at the Vatican to discuss the theme, New Wine in New Wineskins. In the light of this Gospel phrase, the participants reflected on consecrated life in the present-day Church, fifty years after the Constitution Lumen Gentium and the Decree Perfectae Caritatis. This document was published by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on 6 January 2017. 

  1. Preliminary Information
  • Title: New Wine in New Wineskins
  • Authorship: Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Type: Guidelines
  • Year of Release: 6 January 2017
  • Aim: Presenting the Consecrated Life and its ongoing challenges since Vatican II
  • Major Source of the Document: Plenary Session of the Dicastery during 27-30 November 2014 on theme: “New Wine in New Wineskins: Consecrated Life 50 years after Lumen Gentium and Pefectae Caritatis.”
  • Documents that Influenced: Potissimum Institutioni (1990),Fraternal Life in Community (1994), Starting Afresh from Christ (2002), The Service of Authority and Obedience Faciem Tuam (2008) and Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church (2015)
  • Tagline: Our ideals and doctrines need to become real in our community lives. “Realities are more important than ideas (EG 58).”
  • Structure of the Document: There are three parts.
  1. 1. For New Wine and New Wineskins (The Biblical Verse and post conciliar developments: Situating the Past (Jesus’ words), Present (last 50 years) and Future (Challenges ahead).
  2. Ongoing Challenges: Issues in religious life today (Vocation, identity, formation, Gender issues, Obedience)
  3. Preparing New Wineskins: Proposals for the future (Faithfulness, Formative models, formation of the formators, Multicultural dimensions, service of Authority)
  4. Major Themes
  5. The Verse: New Wine, New Wineskins

The new wine contains the teachings and actions of Jesus. There is a temptation to go back to the old wine (“The old is good,” Lk 5:39) as a secure life. There is a need to create structures to preserve, breathe and then share the new challenges of life.

  1. Spiritual Renewal since Vatican II

Chapter VI of Lumen Gentium, and the Perfectae Caritatis set the tone for renewal and adaptation. There was a an exhortation for all the Religious in the form of “Creative Fidelity” after the Code of Canon Law (1983) and Vita Consecrata (1990). Consecrated life centred on Trinitarian mystery, community and mission was focused in Vita Consecrata.

  1. New Paths So Far

Rich multiplicity of diakonia that was expressed by Religious in the present times is noteworthy. There was an attempt to work together the charisms for service. New communities were established beyond cultural barriers. Religious Life has embraced other cultures, languages and races apart from the culture of its origin.

  1. Challenges Today
  • Temptation of the security: There is a temptation of staying in the past.
  • Gen-Gap: Basic cause of many leaving religious life is the result of inauthentic community life (sometimes due to lack of inter-generational dialogues in the community). There is a gen-gap between traditional elders and young religious from other cultures. Religious life faces several hindrances to de-Westernise and de-Europeanise consecrated life (13).
  • Formation Issues: Formation tends to be more informative than performative. Formation is not a fine blend of spiritual and human dimensions. Young religious are more oriented to professional degrees than theological courses (12, 14).
  • Ongoing Formation: On-going formation is at times reduced to religious tourism (visiting places of origin or pilgrim centres), attending some theological courses and lacking reflection and revision (16).
  • Women’s Role: There is a failure to recognise the gift of the genius of women in the Church (Vita Consecrata 58). “The twentieth century is the century of women. It is one of the signs of times” (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris 22). There are moments of oppression from male chauvinistic clergy (towards Consecrated women) and at times from consecrated women themselves (17,18). Lack of mature relationship between consecrated men and women is often characterised by reserve and phobia.
  • Service of Authority: At times, the service of authority is exercised vertically, avoiding subsidiarity. Some superiors maintain the status quo (“we have always done this way”) (19). Among recently founded institutes, there have been moments of manipulation of the freedom and dignity of religious depriving them of their basic rights, promoting forced dependence, etc. (20). Authority exercised through infantile behaviours (asking permission for everything) of members—something more common among women religious (21).
  • Flexibility in Mission: Some hold leadership roles for too long (a common practice among women religious). This is due to a lack of specific general norms to diminish their duration (22).
  • Religious Brother: Clericalisation of consecrated life has reduced the number of lay religious members (23).
  • Cause of Leaving: Superiors give more importance to the institution than to its members. Hence, many leave their congregation due to lack of fraternal life (24).
  1. Proposals
    • Religious need to follow the sermon of the mount more seriously (removing the old and bringing the new). “You have heard that it was said… now I tell you…” (29)
    • There is a need for adequate continuous formation and formation of the formators.
    • Superiors need to be close to the members and accompany them with a fraternal attitude (36).
    • Women religious need to be more exhorted on service in evangelical freedom than servitude (39).
    • The gap between authority and members (among women religious) needs to be bridged on matters of decision-making, personal and community resources (40).
    • A serious reflection on the document, the Service of Authority and Obedience (2008) to be done (43).
    • Need for mutual dialogue and listening among old and young religious (47).
    • Representation to the Chapters (especially General Chapter) is to be proper and proportionate from various cultures and generations in a fair and balanced way (48, 49, 53, 54).
  1. Some quotes
  • “No authority figure, not even a founder, must claim to be an exclusive interpreter of the charism” (20).
  • “The ancient wisdom of monastic tradition: by the Lord’s inspiration, it is often a younger person who knows what is best” (20).
  • “The twentieth century has been defined as the century of women, mostly because of the awakening of the female conscience in modern culture, which was identified fifty years ago by Saint John XXIII as one of the most evident signs of our times” (17).
  • “The substitution of wineskins does not happen by automatism, but requires effort, skill and willingness to change” (22).
  • “Young female vocations carry within them a naturally distinct feminine consciousness” (18).
  • “We must not form administrators and managers, but fathers, brothers, traveling companions (Francis).” (34)
  • “Formation is a work of art, not a police action (Francis).” (34)
  • “No sister should be relegated to a state of subjection; something that, unfortunately, happens frequently. This state encourages dangerous infantilism, can hinder a person’s overall maturation” (40).

III. A Few Observations

  1. Most of the references are for Women Religious.
  2. Several references are from the Instruction, The Service of Authority and Obedience.

3. The Document discusses more on community life than any other area of Religious Life.

Fr. Gilbert Choondal SDB

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